By Melissa L. Webb
“Wait up!” I cry as I try to catch up to the group of kids in front of me. My brother and his friends think it’s funny to leave me behind because I’m so much younger than them. Yeah, like they’re so cool just because they’re teenagers. Some day I’ll be a teenager, too. Mom says I’m going to be taller than my brother anyway. We’ll just wait and see who’s cool then.
“Wait,” I squeak as they take off running in a cloud of laughter. I sprint a few feet and then stop, disheartened by the sight of my brother disappearing down the trail with his friends.
Banging my backpack against the ground, I take in the silent woods around me. I hate this shortcut. Everyday my brother makes us use it on the way home from school. But I fear this place. This shadowed place with its hushed watchfulness.
I feel eyes on me even though I don’t know who they belong to. My brother laughs when I say that. He tells me to stop being such a baby. But I know something is out there, waiting for a chance to pounce.
I start moving, eager to get out of these claustrophobic trees. I raise my arm when I realize I’m still dragging my backpack. My mom will kill me if I bring home a layer of dirt and needles.
A twig snaps behind me. I turn quickly, spooked by the sound. Nothing is there, but a wispy mist. It’s slowly moving in, lightly coating the trees and plants around me.
I shiver, completely unnerved by its ghostly tendrils. I turn, thinking it’s beyond time for me to get home. As I move, a wave of dizziness overcomes me. The strength goes out of my legs and I fall to the ground.
Lifting my hands, I wipe away the grime coating the deep scrapes covering my palms as tears form in my eyes. Why did my brother have to leave me? Am I really that horrible to be around?
Something warm touches my top lip. I reach up, dabbing my fingers into something wet and thick. Red covers my fingertips. Blood. Great. Now on top of everything else, I have a bloody nose.
I try to get up, but pain shoots through my skull as another wave of dizziness washes over me. Fear makes my heart speed up. Boom. Boom. Boom. I am helpless out here. And I am terrified.
“Boy,” a voice hisses behind me. I gasp, the sound erupting from me violently. I try to turn around, but a cough works its way out of my body. It continues, rolling out and suddenly I am gagging. I can taste blood in my mouth. Something is wrong with me.
“Boy,” the voice hisses again. This time it’s in front of me, somewhere on the trail. I lift my head, fighting the weakness coursing through my body. At least the coughing has stopped for the moment.
A figure is standing there. Tall and pale, wearing a black suit like he is nothing more than a man. But he is no man. The white, blank skin where his face should be does nothing to hide that. He moves towards me, dark appendages moving behind him as he does. I don’t know what kind of monster this is, but I am more scared than I have ever been in my short life.
“You are weak,” a voice speaks in my head. I know it is him, this non-man. “You are alone. And I choose you.“
I try to scream, but the coughing starts again. I am weak. Too weak to stop whatever this thing plans to do.
He drifts closer, his whole body moving like millions of worms are squirming within him. “Mine,” the voice inside my head hisses. ”Mine. Mine. Mine.”
My eyes are glued to him. He is moving closer and there is nothing I can do to save myself.
“Frankie?” a voice calls. It is my brother. He is coming back. Maybe I won’t die here after all.
The man turns, giving me the distinct feeling he is searching with eyes he does not own. The voice fills my head again, “I will see you again.” And like a dream on the edge of my mind, he is gone.
I blink, trying to clear my fuzzy head. What is going on?
“Are you okay, twerp?” my brother asks me, suddenly standing over me.
I look up at him, confusion thick in my mind. What am I doing on the ground?
“Oh God, you’re bleeding. Mom is going to kill me.” He picks me up off the ground, making me walk along side him.
“What happened?” I ask, dazed.
“You tripped, dummy. Why don’t you ever watch where you’re going?”
“I don’t feel good,” I tell him. My head is pounding with each step. I must be coming down with something. That must be the reason I fell.
I glance back over my shoulder as my brother leads me out of the woods. My feverish mind is struggling to remember something. There’s something I need to remember. Desperately. But I can’t. I am slipping deeper into my sickness. Oh, well. It was probably nothing. The important thing to remember is I have my soft bed and my mother’s cooling touch to look forward to.
© 2012 Melissa L. Webb